Travel News

The Preferred Seat Hoax: How Airlines Are Charging More to Book the Same Seats

Locations in this article:  Los Angeles, CA Miami, FL

Airline seats might not have changed, but airline fees for those seats are increasing. Peter Greenberg and the Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney break down the preferred seating trend: are some seats really better than others or are you now paying for a seat assignment?

Peter Greenberg: Some airline are now counting a middle seat as a preferred seat which I consider to be completely delusional. Scott McCartney, do you agree?

Scott McCartney: I don’t agree that a middle seat is the preferred seat. Airlines are now taking a large percentage of their seats, classifying them as preferred, and essentially pressuring people into paying for a seat assignment.

PG: I remember when Northwest airlines made all the seat for rows behind first class into preferred seats until even seat 8E! I’m sorry but that’s not a preferred seat!

SM: Airlines are not just saying being in front of the cabin is preferred. I see maps of planes where seat 24 D and E are roped off as preferred seats. You buy your ticket, but that doesn’t guarantee you a specific seat. It’s a real issue for families traveling together that would like to sit together; you can’t just show up at the gate and check in at the airport and roll the dice on what seats you’re going to get.

PG: In the past, many airlines would hold about 30 percent of their seats back for what they call “airport control” and the argument they gave that a lot of businessmen were overbooking. It actually has nothing to do with overbooking; it has to do with controlling who’s going to pay for those seats.